Student Travels Abroad for Year in Spain
By Austen Coviello
Reprint courtesy of The Manchester Independent
Manchester-Essex Regional High School [Massachusetts] junior Nikki Southard is spending the year in Spain with School Year Abroad, a program that offers foreign studies in Spain, Italy, France, China or Vietnam to juniors and seniors.
According to Southard, she was inspired to apply by her mother and one of her good friends. “I figured it never hurt to apply, and if I actually got in, I’d cross that bridge when I got there,” Southard.
Southard said her host family is a mother and a 6 year-old sister who live in Zaragoza, the capital of the province Aragon, which, according to Southard, is about the size of Boston.
She attends school in the center of Zaragoza. School starts at 9 a.m. every day, and 10 a.m. on Wednesdays, and ends at 5:15 p.m. Each class is 50 minutes long. There is a 40-minute break in the morning and an hour and a half break for lunch, during which the students have the option of leaving campus.
Southard’s classes consist of Spanish history, Spanish language, history of Mediterranean art, English, Spanish literature, and math, all of which are taught in Spanish except English and math.
“After about a month here, I felt pretty comfortable speaking Spanish. It’s such a natural part of my day now that I hardly notice I’ve switched languages,” Southard said. She said she and her American friends are now so accustomed to speaking Spanish that they often speak it when they are together.
Southard said she has yet to feel homesick, but there are things she misses, including American food, daily routines, and friends. However, she said the food in Spain is “amazing” and the city is “beautiful.” She said she loves the historical aspect of the Roman architecture in the city.
“The way people live here seems to be more laidback…There’s less urgency in the way people live,” Southard said. “I really like that.”
Spanish teacher Robert Bilsbury, who taught Southard during her sophomore year, said he had never heard of the program or experienced a student doing a high school year abroad. “You need to have a passion for the language; you have to be someone who’s pretty brave,” Bilsbury said. “I think Nikki is definitely qualified for that.” Bilsbury said a year abroad is the best way to acquire a different language.
During her free time, Southard said she enjoys sightseeing, playing music, and meeting up with friends to go to shops and cafés. She left Manchester on September 8and will be home around June 5. After school ends, she said she plans to spend some time traveling around Europe.